God’s plan of creation (plan of salvation) for mankind will be accomplished in two stages, which are depicted by the two harvest seasons of the ancient Middle East (see Holy Day Chart). God’s plan of creation can be understood only from the context of these two harvests. Just as there are two separate grain harvests (one to mark the beginning of the grain season and one to mark the end of the grain season) so too will there be two separate, but similar, harvests of humanity for ascension to the Kingdom of God. Understanding concerning how the seasons relate to God's annual Holy days has been lost until now, because it was never taken into consideration that the seasons through which the Holy Days are connected were ideal Millennial seasons and only lasted for about fifty (50) years after Israel entered the Promised Land. However, with this knowledge now at our disposal we are able to present a far more accurate representation of what God's annual Holy Days actually picture.
Within the two-stage plan, God has decreed the observance of various commanded assemblies and annual festivals that depict the major events which must come to pass in the fulfilment of those stages within the overall plan. These annual festivals were observed by God’s people during Old Testament times and by the early Christian Church. In the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ's entire ministry was centred on the spiritual meaning of these festivals. The meaning of these festivals seems to have been lost among popular Christianity, but Scripture reveals that they will be observed again, by all mankind, after the return of Jesus Christ to Earth.
The first of these festivals is known as the Passover Season and comprises the Passover ceremony itself, followed by seven days called the Days of Unleavened Bread, picturing the time that judgement is on the House of God. In this article the principal address will concern Christ and those matters associated with the Passover ceremony, which, although is a commanded observance is not one of the annual Holy Day Sabbaths.
Passover – the First Annual Ceremony in the Holy Day Calendar
The Hebrew Calendar (not the Jewish Calendar) is a religious almanac given by God to the Israelite nation in order that they may observe His annual Holy Days on the correct days and in the appropriate seasons of year. At the beginning of the year is the month of Abib, the first month in the religious calendar. The Jewish nation (separate from the nation of Israel) later commenced their civil year from 1 Tishri, the seventh month, but the religious calendar still remained the basis for annular calculations. As a religious almanac, even the names of the months had significance associated with events related to the Holy Days. The month of Abib, the month in which the Wave Sheaf was to be offered, literally means "green ears" and since it is the ears of wheat that are green at this time of year (not barley, which is ripe), the Wave Sheaf Offering consists of an omer of green wheat. At this time of year, when the ears of wheat are still green, the kernels are plump and soft, full of protein and sugar. It is at this time, before the wheat has dried and turned golden, that it can be eaten raw. Alternatively, it can be roasted and eaten as a local delicacy known as farike. In Matt 12:1 where we are told that the disciples ate grain as they walked through the fields, it is certain that this grain was the soft green ears of wheat that were plucked and eaten. If the wheat (or other grain) were ripe it would have been hard and dry.
"...At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat..." [RSV].
All the commentaries agree that the time of this event was either during or after the seven days of Unleavened Bread, with the most reasonable conclusion being that it was the day of the Sabbath immediately preceding the day of the wave offering.
Both Christ and the saints are called firstfruits (1Cor 15:23, Heb 12:23 and Rev 14:4) and just as God demands the purity of Christ in all who ascend to His family, so too are all those in both the early and late harvest of pure wheat – they are not of wheat and other mixed grain. They must all be pure spiritual Israelites. We are told in Ex 34:22 that the first harvest (at Pentecost), like the second larger harvest, is a wheat (khit-taw) harvest:
"...'And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end.'..." [NKJV].
The Wave Sheaf offering, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:10), was part of and actually commenced the very first fraction of the early wheat harvest. Although some churches of God teach that the Wave Sheaf was comprised of green barley, Keil, in quoting Philo and Josephus, suggests that the barley was already ripe at this time in the warmer areas of Canaan. The Wave Sheaf offering was therefore an omer of green wheat.
Passover Commemorates the Sacrifice of Christ
Although Passover is to be observed by all spiritual Israel (eventually the whole world), the specific redemptive aspect of the occasion applies only to those known as the firstborn, or first fruits of salvation. It was only the firstborn of Israel who were saved by the original physical Passover, NOT the whole of Israel; Likewise, it is the firstborn of the spirit (the Church) to which the NT or spiritual Passover applies. In the greater Plan of Salvation, to find the equivalent redemptive offer for the remainder of humanity we must look to the Day of Atonement, which is the subject of another article.
The Passover ceremony commemorates the sacrifice Christ made for us; paying the penalty for our sins so that our ailments may be healed and so we do not have to suffer everlasting death (1Pet 2:24). Passover pictures God's OFFER of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice of suffering and death for the remission of sins (pictured by the bread and wine) should we choose to live God’s way of life (pictured by the foot washing ceremony). As we partake of the emblems each year, we are commanded to remember what they mean – what Christ did for us (1Cor 11:24-25). The self-examination spoken of in 1Cor 11:28-29 is directed at this issue – it is a matter of gratitude and how much we ought to regard and appreciate each other and the sacrifice that was made for us. The self-examination should not be primarily concerned with us reviewing our sinful lives – rather, we should be focusing and reflecting more on what Christ was willing to do for us in order to become our saviour. Only in this way can we fulfil the requirement in 1Cor 11:28-29 and avoid partaking of the Passover unworthily.
“…But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body…” [KJV].
Almost no-one understands what it means to "eat and drink unworthily" and no help in this area has been forthcoming from the commentaries. I have found no exceptions to the "understanding" that what God means here is that we should examine ourselves for sin and repent. In other words, be introspective, self-centred, negative and depressed. Nothing could be further from the truth! Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are about putting sin to death at the beginning of our Christian lives, then LIVING God's way of life for the rest of our lives.
We are also given the answer to this question in verse 29 where it states that we eat and drink unworthily because we are not discerning the Lord's body. What is the Lord's body ? It is the church, the people that make up our congregation.
Eph 4:15 (NLT)
"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."
So, what does this mean? It means we are to look after one another – we are to be our brother's keeper, which relates directly to the very next Passover symbol – the washing of feet which symbolizes serving our brethren. When we see our brethren in need we are to help out in accordance with the gifts God has given us. We may be able to pray for the sick, we may be able to help out in times of financial need, we may be able to visit or telephone those who are not able to fellowship. On this last point it should be known that there are many more types of prisons than those built to incarcerate criminals. When our brethren are afflicted in some manner, it is not our place to judge them, it is our place to comfort them.
Also, the vast majority of Christians do not suffer because they have sinned – they suffer by decree of God to fill up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ! This is why Paul said that he counted it joy to be afflicted and was joyful when he saw that the church was being likewise afflicted. He was not some sado-masochist – he knew that this was happening as a result of the church fulfilling its commission to fill up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. We are the body of Christ and we are sacrificed daily, we die daily.
Paul, speaking of himself:
Php 2:17 (NKJV)
"...Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all..."
"...I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service..."
Being more specific, how do we do this? We do it by serving our brethren!
Matt 25:34-40 (KJV)
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
This service and sacrifice is pictured by the foot washing ceremony, which symbolizes living God's way of life and please do not think that the above list is complete. The list only contains some examples of how we can serve each other. Just remember to be kind to each other on a daily basis and you will find the list is almost endless.
Paul, speaking of himself and the church:
Col 1:24 (NLT & Strong's)
"...I now rejoice in my sufferings, moreover yours, filling up that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ in my flesh and continuing in his body, which is the church.”
Rom 8:36 (NKJV)
"...As it is written, "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."..."
Gal 4:29 (KJV)
"...But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now..."
So, with Christ's sacrifice of a broken body we have two components – the memorial of the actual sacrifice which was for the purpose of setting us free from sin and the ongoing sacrifice in the church by the individual members on a daily basis. The references in 1Peter and Isaiah to being healed because of Christ's stripes are actually referring to our spiritual healing and this meaning is clear both from the context and the fact that we are told we must expect to be afflicted.
2Cor 1:7 (NKJV)
"And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation."
Heb 12:8 (NKJV)
"But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."
Thus, while the torture of Jesus was very real and comprised part of his sacrifice to provide for the forgiveness of sin, it also was symbolic and prophetic in that it revealed what was to befall true Christians during their lives on Earth in the Adamite age.
Now briefly, the component parts of the Passover ceremony are as follows:
Although it is common to split the partaking of the bread and wine into two components because they picture the two major aspects of Christ’s sacrifice, studying them as shown above provides the total picture intended to be seen through the Passover ceremony. The partition presented above differentiates between Christ’s total sacrifice for us (providing for the remission of sins) and our agreement to commit to God’s way of life. While it is commendable and indeed required, that we pay reverence to Christ’s sacrifice, that sacrifice would be for nought if we were to pay little attention to agreement to live God’s way of life, which is pictured by the foot washing part of the ceremony.
Christ came into the world for two principal reasons:
1. To pay the penalty for our sins before becoming a new creation by baptism with the Holy spirit, Matt 20:28:
“…Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many….” [KJV]. The new creation cannot sin and so there is no need of further forgiveness, but there is a continual struggle with the "old man" which does sin. God elaborates on this situation through Paul's experience as recorded for us in Romans Chapter 7.
2. To live God’s way of life to the full, thereby giving us an example of how to live, Matt 5:17:
“…Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil….” [KJV].
These two reasons for being are shown to us through the new Passover symbols as given by Christ and recorded for us in John 13 where, we see the distinct parts:-
1. Partaking of the bread & wine, which signifies accepting that Christ is our one and only saviour and acknowledging his offer to pay the penalty for our sins – it is a remembrance ceremony for Christ's sacrifice; and
2. The foot washing ceremony, which signifies our agreement to commit to God’s way of life by fulfilling the law after Christ’s example – 1Pet 2:21. (Participation in God’s way of life can be achieved only after receipt of the Holy Spirit, which will be covered in the next article in the section addressing the first Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.)
In partaking of the emblems of bread and wine, we are remembering Christ's atoning sacrifice as payment for all our sins (accepting him as our one and only saviour). In doing so, we are acknowledging Christ's tremendous offer to remove our sins in order that we may be granted eternal life as spirit beings.
“…26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’…” [NKJV].
To fully appreciate the significance of the Passover, we need to have an understanding of what was done by Christ and the absolute love he has towards us. We may then appreciate his sacrifice before we partake of the emblems that symbolize that sacrifice and love. To assist in this understanding, this section will address some of the history of Jesus; the enormity of his suffering and sacrifice; and clarify “what was nailed to the cross” by his death.
A brief outline of the history of Jesus is recorded in the Books of John and Philippians:
”…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…” [KJV].
“…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth…” [KJV].
”…For, let this mind be in you that [is] also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought [it] not robbery to be equal to God, but did EMPTY himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made,…” [YLT].
We can summarise further as follows:
1. The Word was God (a member of the Godhead).
2. All things were made by the Word.
3. The Word was made flesh – JESUS.
Some of the other facts about Christ:
· He was “in the form of God” (Phil 2:6), meaning he WAS God, with all the power of a member of the Godhead;
· He regarded himself as an EQUAL of God the Father in that he was a member of the Godhead. Other beings have no claim to such equality. However, Scripture also shows that there is a hierarchy in the Godhead and within that structure he is indeed subordinate to the Father. “…for my Father is greater than I…” (John 14:28 – KJV) is an example; and
· He emptied HIMSELF (Phil 2:7) – no-one, not even the Father, took anything from him. Christ, then the Word, did this not just as a voluntarily act for a hapless mankind, but did it as a considered decision as part of the greater plan of salvation (Rev 13:8, John 1:29 and Titus 1:2).
One of the most challenging questions to ponder about Jesus relates to the emptying of himself and what it was that was emptied. Part of the answer is found in what Christ asked the Father to return to him after his resurrection. Christ wanted his “GLORY” returned – that is all:
“…And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was…” [John 17:5 – KJV].
The glory referred to here is the appearance of God and all that accompanies the office of one who is a member of the Godhead; glory has nothing to do with the POWER of a member of the Godhead. So, when Christ emptied himself he either only emptied himself of his glory or his total power and glory. For the answer we need only consult the written Word of God: John 3:34 (referring to Christ):
“…For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure…” [NKJV].
Here we have it; Christ emptied himself completely and was given back his full and infinite power by the Father. This Scripture shows that Christ already had his unlimited power returned, which is why he only sought for the return of his glory. No mention is made as to how long Jesus was without his power, but as he had his full power while he was a physical human being it is considered that his power was returned very quickly after he gave it up.
In this picture, the most significant point that may be missed is that Christ had the Holy Spirit WITHOUT measure. He did not have the full portion of the Holy Spirit or the complete measure of the Holy Spirit – Christ had the Holy Spirit without measure! What this means is that he had the infinite power of the Godhead within him while he was a human being! God’s Word leaves us in no doubt concerning this matter where, in Col 2:9, Christ’s deity and Godhead status is made plain – that Jesus was God in the flesh (both God and man):
“…For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;…” [NKJV].
This being, Christ Jesus, had unlimited power, including the power of life and death and the power to command both Angels and demons. This power he exhibited on a number of occasions, including resurrecting himself. Christ mentioned several times that he would be resurrecting himself and one such account is given in John 10:18 (Christ speaking about his life):
“…No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father…” [KJV].
Later, the apostles state that God raised Christ (Acts 4:10), but Christ said that he raised himself. There is no contradiction, because Christ operated under the chain of command system of government. Although Christ was the one who had the power to raise himself and indeed did so, he received the authority for this action from the Father. Accordingly, as the one authorising the action it is correct to say the Father raised Christ, but it is also equally correct to say that Christ raised himself as he was the one who actually performed the job. Likewise in creation, although the Word said, “Let US create man in our image,” It was the Word alone who performed the actual creating and we know this from John 1:3 which states,
“…All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…” [KJV].
Regarding the miracles performed by Jesus, we are told that God, the Father, did these miracles through Christ, Acts 2:22:
“…Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know…” [NKJV].
However, there should be no mistake; just as it was Jesus who made all things, so too was Jesus doing these other miracles (including self-resurrection), but only such miracles as he was authorised to do by the Father.
Also, it was not possible for the grave to hold Jesus because even as a man, not only did he have the Holy Spirit without measure, he had life within himself as a self-existent being, just as God the Father has life in himself as a self-existent being and we are told this by Jesus himself,
“…‘For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,’…” [NKJV].
Add to this that Christ was without sin and therefore was an immortal human being! It was this physical immortality which was given up that we may be pardoned for our sins and later be granted the GIFT of eternal life as spirit beings. Regarding Christ’s human immortality, we know that the “…wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23) and since Christ committed no sin it was impossible for him to be killed or die naturally, unless he himself gave his life, which is exactly what happened. Only as one with the power of God, having the power of life and death, could he do such a thing. Even a sinless normal human could not have made this sacrifice, because he would not have had the power of life and death as does Christ, the creator of all.
Before the physical universe was created, the Word (Jesus) determined that he would have to die to pay the penalty for the sins committed by all he created, Rev 13:8:
“…And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [kosmos]…” [KJV].
What was Nailed to the Cross
To acknowledge the offer of the New Covenant as a base for our lives as Christians and to partake of the Passover in a worthy manner, there is crucial instruction that we need to address and remember. Most importantly, in considering Christ’s sacrifice we need to be aware of exactly what was nailed to the cross in the course of that sacrifice – in Col 2:14 (speaking of the effect of Christ’s sacrifice) we are told,
“…Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;…” [KJV].
The phrase “handwriting of ordinances” is a legalistic phrase and refers to an indictment against us for having broken the law – it does NOT refer to the law itself. The law remains and indeed we are told by Christ himself that he did not come to destroy the law, but to obey the law (Matt 5:17). In this case the indictment was sin and the wages (penalty) for sin is death. Christ took that indictment and in effect said, “Kill me instead of them.” This is verified in Luke 9:56 where it is stated,
“…For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…” [KJV].
A simple analogy would be, when we get charged (indicted) for speeding in a car, a friend pays the speeding fine for us. By the friend paying the fine he did away with the indictment, but the law against speeding still remains. Due to the sacrifice of Christ there is now no indictment against us and God views us as being righteous even though an element of carnality still remains.
In partaking of the emblems of bread and wine we are acknowledging Christ as our personal saviour; we are remembering his sacrifice of torture and death as payment for the penalty of sins we have committed, which would result in our sickness and death. In our partaking of the emblems we are remembering what Christ had to undergo in order to make the offer of redemption under the terms of the New Covenant, which culminates in our eternal life.
“…24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world…” [NKJV].
The foot washing ceremony was introduced to the disciples by Christ after he and the disciples had eaten their evening meal. This was the night of Christ’s last Passover observance; the night before he was murdered. Christ made the importance of the foot washing ceremony clear with his statement that if the disciples did not allow him to wash their feet, then they would have no part with him in the future, John 13:8:
“…Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part in me’…” [KJV].
This ceremony is important to Christ, because it symbolizes living God’s way of life – a life of service to others. Christ gave us an example of this service and we can see the full account in John 13:3-8:
“…3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. 6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ 7 Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.’ 8 Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part in me’…." [KJV].
This part of the Passover service, the foot washing ceremony, is not intended to symbolize Christ making us clean spiritually – making us clean spiritually occurs later at baptism, which is symbolized by the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Sometimes it is difficult to understand why God requires certain things of us and this was definitely the case with Peter – he outright refused to allow Christ to wash his feet until Christ made it a command. Even then he did not understand, but he did obey and Christ promised understanding would come later. This principle of obedience first and understanding second is brought out very clearly in Psa 111:10:
“…The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments…” [NKJV].
Choosing to obey or not obey is NOT an option – we obey God's commands or we have no part with Him or Christ. This is stated very strongly in James 4:11 and while a specific law was being discussed, the principle is the same for the whole of God's commands – God does not change:
“…But your job is not to decide whether this law is right or wrong, but to obey it…” [TLB].
The foot washing ceremony is about service to others, a reminder of how to participate in God’s way of life.
Christ came to live God's way of life, fully and completely. The way he lived his life is to be an example for us and what Peter was saying by refusing to let Christ wash his feet was, "I don't want your example, I don’t want your help, I don’t want your teachings, and I don’t want your way of life!"
Naturally, because he did not have the Holy Spirit, Peter did not understand that this was what he was actually saying, just as he did not understand why Christ was washing feet in the first place. However, knowing that Christ would consider Peter’s objection to be an objection to God’s way of life, we can appreciate why Christ would say that Peter would have no future with him if Peter did not allow Christ to wash his feet. Christ’s indisputable instructions can seen in John 13:14-15:
“…14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you…” [KJV].
That is to say, we are to participate in the annual physical foot washing ceremony as part of the Passover both as a physical reminder and because we are to follow the example of Christ, who physically washed the disciples' feet. Most importantly, we are to use this ceremony as a symbolic example of service to others. It reminds us of how Christ lived his life as a model showing how we should relate to each other, interact with each other, think of each other. Christ said that they did not understand what he was doing at that time, but they would at some future time (John 13:7) – referring to when they would receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Understanding the things of God can come only by the Spirit of God (1Cor 2:11,12).
Only baptized members of the church (those with the Holy Spirit) are to participate in the foot washing, because it is only after receipt of the Holy Spirit that one knows how to serve in a Godly way – i.e. live God’s way of life. On the night of the institution of the Passover symbols Christ was the only one present with the Holy Spirit which meant he was the only one qualified to wash anyone’s feet – he was the only one who understood how to be a Godly servant. Later, when the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, this would change - after baptism they too would understand this way of life and therefore be able participate fully in the foot washing ceremony as Christ commanded. At that time they had accepted Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah, but without actually having the Holy Spirit they had no idea of Godly service. So, there was simply the command that they should wash each other’s feet with the indication being that the command to participate was intended for future Passovers when they did have the Holy Spirit and understand what they were doing.
Notice that service is a two-way street! In washing each other’s feet we are to both serve and allow ourselves to be served. If we do not allow ourselves to be served, then no-one will be able to serve. Symbolically, we will be attempting to prevent others from living God’s way of life.
Allowing ourselves to be served when we are in need is just as important as our service to others. You see, when we have needs we are supposed to ask God to provide for us and then God will provide. However, the vast majority of Biblical examples show that God uses human instruments to answer our requests. Since the time of the first century church there is no record that He has answered requests directly (apart from personal healings). So, if we refuse human help we may well be refusing help that was actually sent by God. We must be willing to be served as well as being willing to serve others.
Christ died for humanity! That should make us stop and think, that if God regards humanity as being important enough to send His son as a living example and be killed as a sacrifice for us, then perhaps we too should regard people with more respect and be more concerned for them.
How to live God’s way of life is covered in the next article, which deals with the meaning of the of Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The trap with all ceremony is that performance of the ritual becomes the all important issue. Over time the significance of the ceremony is diminished, if not lost completely in embellished rituals. The Passover is a simple ceremony intended to be observed by families or small groups of people in a single household. We are given this command in the first person by the Word when the detailed instructions for the Passover are provided in Exod 12:3-4:
“…3 ‘Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb.’…” [NKJV].
When larger groups gathered for this purpose there were found to be problems, as shown in 1Cor 11:20-22,
“…20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?...” [NKJV].
Who is to Take Part in the Passover Ceremony?
Anciently, all Israelites were to participate in the Passover and Exod 12:3-4 indicates that the entire household, including women and children, took part. Those specifically forbidden to take part were any strangers or servants who were uncircumcised (Ex 12:43-49). Circumcision was the physical sign of the old covenant between God and His people and indeed it was the sign that actually identified who were God’s people. The original covenant, made between God and Abraham, was first made when Abraham was 99 years old (Gen 17:10-27). Regardless of his age, as soon as the requirement for circumcision was made known to Abraham he complied immediately and ensured his whole household (those of whom were male), including Ishmael, was circumcised. This covenant was later re-established between God and Israel at Mt Sinai when He gave them His Law. Today God deals with His spiritual nation of Israel and only those who are of spiritual Israel may participate in the Passover. Although circumcision is still the sign between God and His people, physical circumcision has now been replaced by spiritual circumcision. This is the new covenant, which extends to all peoples of Earth and the sign God uses to identify His people in this age is His Holy Spirit – Col 2:10-12:
“…10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead...” [NIV].
1 Cor 12:13
"...For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit..." [RSV]
“…13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who [which] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory…” [NIV].
"...And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'..." [NRSV].
Spiritual circumcision is baptism with the Holy Spirit. We see this confirmation from the above Scriptures – that it seals us and sets us apart as God's people. Physical circumcision was just the symbol that typified this spiritual act. It is this act of spiritual circumcision, baptism with the Holy Spirit, which initially qualifies one to partake of the Passover.
However, before people can be baptized they must be old enough (mature enough) to be able to count and assess the cost of taking up a life of following Christ. They must be able to take responsibility for their actions and be prepared for any consequences that may arise from participating in Christian living. It is not an easy life, else Christ himself would not have made the statements recorded in Luke 14:26-33:
“…26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate [love less] his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. 31 Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’…” [NIV].
The nature of the decisions alluded to above require a level of maturity beyond that of a child – they are judgements, resolutions and assessments that only come from experience as an adult. Although it is not the purpose here to set an age on maturity, it is noteworthy that even our secular law relating to the protection of minors recognizes the gullibility and inexperience of the young. Baptism is clearly for adults. Accordingly, only those adults who have been baptized and received God’s Holy Spirit may participate in the Passover, for only they are part of spiritual Israel.
Observance of the Passover by Christians is shown in the example given by Christ is as follows:
1. The evening meal is being concluded – Matt 26:26 and Mark 14:22 state that the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine was during the meal, while Luke 22:20 states that the wine was taken after the meal. It is most likely that Matthew and Mark were either slow eaters or Luke was a fast eater and had actually finished his evening meal. With all accounts together it is easy to see that the meal was in the stage of being concluded, thus providing us with the timing for commencement of the ceremony;
2. Christ gave thanks for the unleavened bread and gave a portion to all present commanding them to eat it, with Christ providing a brief explanation;
3. Christ gave thanks for the wine and gave a portion to all present commanding them to drink it, again providing a brief explanation;
4. After the evening meal we are told in John 13:2-5 that the foot washing took place (again with Christ providing an explanation) and notice for this task he had to rise from the table, whereas passing around the bread and wine did not require him to rise from the table; and
5. Finally, they sang (Matt 26:30 and Mark 14:26). The literal meaning of the Greek word used here does not restrict the singing to a single hymn or psalm and in fact indicates that they could have sung several psalms involving any combination of the 113th, 115th, 116th or 117th Psalms. Modern hymns of these Psalms would be suitable, but If they are not available to you in music form, then a hymn generally giving honour to the Father would also be suitable. It is unlikely that Christ would have chosen hymns to honour himself.
Please note the order of events: the parts of the ceremony concerning our relationship with our saviour are covered first, then follows the foot washing which is the part concerning our relationship with our fellow man. We can see the same order in the Ten Commandments, where the first four concern our relationship with God and the last six concern our relationship with our fellow man. Likewise when Christ summed up the law to a lawyer (from the sect of the Pharisees) concerning which of the Commandments was the greatest. Christ gave him two “new” ones, the first being to love God and the second being to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mat 22:37-40). By being consistent with this order of events God is showing us how to get our priorities straight. We have no authority to change that order, because any such change would be diminishing God’s part in the big picture of the Plan of Salvation. For a more complete explanation of this aspect see the article entitled, "The Feast of Unleavened Bread."
Unlike other church services, Passover simply starts – there is no opening prayer because it commences while the evening meal is being concluded. The whole of the service may be conducted by the head of the household or be shared with other baptized males. Women would conduct the service only if there were no baptized males present.
This is the Passover ceremony at its simplest and most complex. The timing, format and content are to be as per the above example, which was provided by Christ himself. The Passover ceremony is a very solemn occasion followed by a positive period of seven days concentrating on all that is good.
The seven days following Passover are known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and represent the dedication of our lives to God and the establishment of Godly relations with our fellow man. The days of unleavened bread are not meant to be a negative period where we reflect on our shortcomings and sins; it is meant to picture us following Christ’s example of Godly living and doing what is good, right, just and kind. It is a very positive time.
Summary List of Passover Instructions
1. Observed on 14 Abib in the evening (see calendar).
2. Observed as a single family, or small group in a single household.
3. Restricted to baptized members of the Church of God.
4. The ceremony starts as a continuation of the evening meal – there is no opening or closing prayer.
5. The unleavened bead is taken first – with head of house giving prayer of thanks to God; asking His blessing and giving recognition of the symbol.
6. The wine is taken second – with head of house giving prayer of thanks to God; asking His blessing and giving recognition of the symbol.
7. Washing of feet is done third.
8. A hymn/s is sung to conclude proceedings.
Study List of Scriptures
It is too late to start contemplating the meaning of Passover when the night arrives. One should have already done the necessary study during the weeks leading up to Passover. Lack of study could result in our partaking of the emblems unworthily and for that there are serious consequences as stated in 1Cor 11:28-29;
“…But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body…” [KJV].
What does it mean to partake of the emblems in a worthy manner? We must remember that this word is an adverb, not an adjective and therefore describes the manner in which we observe proceedings, not the piety of those who observe the proceedings. For this we must remember that God sent His only son as a sacrifice to redeem us from our sins by spilling his innocent blood and giving his own life in our stead. Jesus is our saviour and this is what he did for us.
To assist in commencing your study on the subject of the Passover a list of Scriptures is provided below.
Origins and History
Exod 12:1-14; Exod 12:21-33; Exod 12:43-49; and
John, chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19
Matthew 26:17-25; Matthew 27:8-54;
Mark 14:12-72; Mark 15:1-39;
Luke 22:14-71; and Luke 23:1-47.
Relevant Miscellaneous Scriptures
“…If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?...” [KJV].
1Cor 10:1-14; 1Cor 11:17-34;
2Timothy 2:19; and
Articles By Others
The Foot Washing Ceremony was introduced by Christ on the night of his last Passover observance with the disciples and symbolizes how to live a Christian life. Not participating means not wanting to live God’s way.